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Writing Centre Online Resource Guide


Writing Lab Reports in Psychology

Psychology Lab Reports

Writing is an integral form of communication in science; as such, good scientists should also be good writers. Science works not in isolation but by the continuous examination and re-examination of scientific phenomenon and the discoveries of one’s peers. Lab or journal reports are an essential form of communication in the psychological sciences enabling researchers to learn what other labs have discovered. Reports are published so that their conclusions and methods may be tested and evaluated by the scientific community. Thus, it is critical that reports clearly display their research and include all of the information necessary to understand and possibly replicate a study. No matter how great the data, if the report is poorly written, the information won’t reach the audience. 

Report writing is not like essay writing, and it is sometimes confusing for a student new to science to be told, for example, that the “introduction” section in a lab report is not the same as the introduction of an essay. The science lab report, in contrast to the typical essay, devotes more space to setting out the problem or gap that initiates the study. While the essay form requires that the writer state a thesis very early in the paper, the science lab report requires the writer to develop the background that initiated the study before presenting the goal of the paper.

Scientific lab reports have many names: studies, experiments, articles, journals, etc., but they all follow the same basic layout of Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, References, and sometimes Appendices. In science, and even within psychology, there are countless “styles” of writing reports. However, these are more subtle variations, such as different section titles or changes in formatting of citations and references; the fundamental idea remains the same: to show why the work needed to be done, what you did and how, what it might mean, and how your research fits into the scientific community.

Writing Your Lab:

A few tips for starting your lab:

  1. Begin with the methods and results sections.
  2. Create an outline of your introduction, making sure your introduction has a clearly stated hypothesis.
  3. Brainstorm on interpretations of the data for the discussion.
  4. Draft the introduction and discussion in paragraph form.
  5. Prepare the reference section.
  6. Proof read: check for clarity, flow, and grammatical and spelling errors.

Example Psychology Papers

APA Citation Style

Anatomy of an APA Citation from Dalhousie Libraries on Vimeo.

Dalhousie Libraries shows you what an APA citation is. Then we show you how to put one together properly and get it right the first time.

Resources for Writing in Psychology

Last updated March 6, 2019 by Sr. Gemma MacLeod, Dalhousie Writing Centre